Amherst College Archives, Dickinson Museum to Mark 150th Anniversary of Local Resident’s Civil War Death with Exhibit, Discussion, Reenactment
March 23, 2012
AMHERST, Mass.—This March and April, Amherst College’s Archives and Special Collections and the Emily Dickinson Museum will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the March 1862 death of Frazar Stearns, son of college president William Augustus Stearns, with a special exhibition, panel discussion and “living history” encampment. The events are free and open to the public.
Stearns died in the Civil War Battle of New Bern, N.C., and his death brought the reality of the war to the town’s residents. In a letter about Stearns, for example, poet Emily Dickinson wrote, “Let us love better, children, it’s most that’s left to do.”
The details of the Stearns commemorations are as follows:
- Exhibit at Frost Library - On Thursday, March 29, Archives and Special Collections will open a special exhibition, Frazar is Killed, of Civil War-related material in the Amherst College collection. The material includes photographs of Stearns and other Amherst College students who served in the war, letters from Emily Dickinson and college associates and buttons from the uniform of William S. Clark, who graduated from Amherst in 1848 and became a chemistry professor there before going to war. Michael Kelly, head of Archives and Special Collections, notes that “there were only 235 students at Amherst when the Civil War started. It was a small, tight-knit community, so the death of Frazar Stearns was deeply felt by all. The war altered every aspect of life in the United States, and college life in Amherst was no exception.” Located on the main floor of Frost Library, the exhibition is accessible during the library’s open hours (visit www.amherst.edu/library/hours for more details). The exhibition will be on view through May 20.
- Panel Discussion at Frost Library - To celebrate the opening of Frazar is Killed, Frost Library will host a panel discussion, “How the Civil War Came to Amherst,” at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 29. Panelists will examine how the Civil War affected the college, the town and one of its most famous residents, Emily Dickinson. Martha Ackmann, author and senior lecturer at Mount Holyoke College, will moderate the panel. Joining her on the panel will be Kelly; Polly Longsworth, biographer of Emily Dickinson; Robert Romer, local historian, Amherst graduate and professor emeritus at Amherst; and Marianne Curling, consultant to the Amherst Historical Society. A reception will follow.
- Encampment at the Emily Dickinson Museum - Continuing the Civil War commemorations, on Saturday, April 28, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Emily Dickinson Museum will host a living history encampment of the 22nd Massachusetts Regiment. During the encampment, members of the reenactment regiment will set up camp on the grounds of the museum and discuss life on the front. The regiment will demonstrate a military drill, perform songs from the period, read poetry and introduce visitors to a popular ball-and-bat game. Children will also have a chance to learn about army life firsthand by “mustering in,” or assuming the identity of a Civil War soldier. For a complete schedule, visit www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/events.
The Emily Dickinson Museum, comprising the Dickinson Homestead and The Evergreens, is devoted to the story and legacy of poet Emily Dickinson and her family. Both properties are owned by the Trustees of Amherst College. The museum is overseen by a separate Board of Governors charged with raising its operating and capital funds. The Homestead was the birthplace and residence of the poet (1830–1886). The Evergreens was the home of the poet's brother and sister-in-law, Austin and Susan Dickinson. The Emily Dickinson Museum is located at 280 Main Street in Amherst.
Archives and Special Collections houses Amherst College’s rare books, literary manuscripts, recorded information of unique value and materials that document the college and its history. The department, located on the A Level of Frost Library, holds more than 80,000 books and 11,000 linear feet of archival materials, including the largest collection of Emily Dickinson manuscripts in the world. The history of Amherst College, and the local community, is extensively documented through books, manuscripts, photographs, film and objects. Other strengths of the collections include natural history, especially ornithology; missionary activity; travel literature; theater; international politics and diplomacy; and social justice and activism. Archives and Special Collections is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., year-round.